When we have our ARRT Steering Committee meetings, the members are encouraged to share an interesting book with the group. This is a great way for us Readers' Advisors to share titles that we think would be good suggestions for our patrons. It also opens us up to new titles. Since no one can possible read everything, it is a wonderful way to learn about more books. In fact, I quite frequently will use the suggestion straight from a fellow ARRT member and pass it on to a patron the very next day.
Sones, Sonya. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel About Marriage, Motherhood and Mayhem. Harper: HarperCollins.Apr. 2011. c.416p. ISBN 9780062024671. pap. $13.99. F In her first adult novel, an ode to the sandwich generation, Sones employs the same light, free-verse style that has made her young adult titles (Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy; One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies) so popular. Dodging her book editor’s calls, newly menopausal Holly finds no pleasant distraction in focusing on her family—a hospitalized mother suffering from ’roid rage and dementia, an only daughter going away to college, and a husband idling at his own midlife crossroads. Readers will smile when they see the “but” coming in a poem that begins, “My husband has many fine qualities” and sigh when Holly describes the ache she feels watching a young neighbor playing with her toddler. Somewhere between Nora Ephron and Jennifer Weiner, Sones recounts the little ouches of aging with a perfect blend of wit and tenderness.VERDICT This is what chick lit should want to be when it grows up—wise, funny, and blunt.—Karen Kleckner, Deerfield P.L., IL
This book is exactly as advertised. Holly tells us her story, both her present situation with a daughter about to go off to college, a husband who is keeping a secret, and a sick mother thousands of miles away, and her thoughts about how she got to this point. Her nostalgic looks back at her daughter's childhood were especially moving for me personally.
Holly's voice alternates between humorous, touching, annoyed, angry, frustrated, joyous, and thankful. She is the reason to read this book. Her emotions feel real, her reactions true, and her insight down-to-earth
The verse is not as obtrusive as one would think. We open with Holly's 50th birthday around the corner and the realization that menopause has come. The short poems capture her feelings perfectly. Sones uses some poems to move Holly's story forward and others look at the issues of the sandwich generation in greater detail. So while one poem may be about how much she will miss her daughter, the next may be about her sagging breasts. There will be one about her work followed immediately by one about her mother. The switching back and forth is not distracting, rather, it gives Holly depth. I could feel her inner struggle and the different things vying for her attention. I did not need pages of character development to understand Holly. Her poems, and the order in which Sones placed them, did the heavy lifting of the character development here.
Due to the verse style, this is also a quick read. I raced through the book telling myself I would just read one more poem, but then 45-60 seconds later I thought, just one more, and again...you get the point. This would be a great summer read for any mom, whether they are living Holly's life right now, or will be someday.
Three Words That Describe This Book: novel-in-verse, humorous, touching
Where This Book Took Me (summer reading feature): to a peek into what my life may be like in 12-14 years.
Readalikes: I like Karen's description that this book fits in somewhere between Jennifer Weiner and Nora Ephron. The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is a Women's Lives book in the truest sense. It explores the choices and situations which women in America face today as they move from their child bearing and rearing years into their middle age.
Adriana Trigiani is also a great writer of stories of women from all ages and walks of life. Her focus is on families, friends, and their interaction with a great balance between humor and touching scenes. She is just an all out excellent story-teller who will appeal to those who like Sones' work here.
Sones also reminds me of Elizabeth Berg, but with a tad bit more in your face humor (Berg's can be subtle).
I am a Librarian [MLIS] in Illinois specializing in serving leisure readers ages 13 and up. I train library staff all over the world on how to match books with readers through their local public library. I am the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, 2d edition (ALA Editions, 2012). I am under contract to write content for EBSCO's NoveList database, reviews for Booklist, am a member of the Adult Reading Round Table Steering Committee, a 5 term Trustee for my local library, and am a proud member of The Horror Writers' Association. Check out the side bar for links to the groups and organizations with which I am affiliated.